“Everyone else has a Facebook page – we should too.” I hear this all too often. And sadly, so many companies jump onto the social media bandwagon without much thought or planning. The “throw it on the wall and see if it sticks” mentality runs rampant in the social world.
According to a study by Grant Thornton, 76% of companies do not have a social media policy. No policy, no plan, no strategy… just presence. And of course social media is expected to turn a positive ROI or forget about it, right?
Wrong. Too many companies apply this backwards approach to their social media efforts. By taking a step back and investing appropriate time into the development of a realistic social media strategy, companies can realize greater effectiveness and success utilizing social channels. Here are a few guiding principles to keep in mind as you develop a social media strategy for your organization.
The Heart of your Plan… Clear Goals and Objectives
If you don’t start with what you are trying to achieve, then how can you measure success? Be as specific as possible when defining your objectives and goals. Why are you investing time and resources into social media and what is your desired outcome? There are many reasons to adopt a social strategy:
- Generate leads and/or sales
- Improve SEO rankings
- PR tool
- Drive traffic to your website,
- Improve customer relations / As a customer service tool
- HR / Recruiting
- Increase customer engagement
- Increase customer loyalty
- Raise awareness of your company and/or products/services
- Identify new product opportunities
Whatever your reason(s), it is pertinent to keep in mind that social is a unique channel. Your plan should be based on a customer centric approach…it all starts with your audience – and understanding their needs and wants and crafting your strategy around them. Try to start with one overarching goal and then work your way into more multi-layer approaches. Be realistic in your expectations and understand that social media is not a guaranteed silver bullet.
It’s Ok to Start Small…Grow into Your Social Being
Don’t start off trying to be everything to everyone. Keep in mind, you don’t need to be on every social channel out there – you just need to be where it matters to your audience. Start with a few channels, test out your strategy, and build out your social media strategy based on your audience wants and needs.
Social Flexibility… Your Plan Should Be Fluid
We live in a real-time world where technology, innovations, competitors and customer tastes can change the landscape in an instant. Your plan needs to have the flexibility to adapt to both internal and external changes. If something absolutely isn’t working in your plan, adapt and make the necessary changes to better achieve your objectives. You should review your plan often and update it to accommodate for changes in the landscape. Be sure to communicate updates to the plan to your entire team so that everyone is on board.
Know your Capabilities… Be Realistic
Executing your social media strategy takes time, resources and yes, money. Don’t make your plan loftier than your capabilities. Understand who and how you will implement your strategic initiatives and budget appropriately.
Measurement is a Must-Do… Track to Your Stated Objectives
Plan what you want to measure, how you will measure, how often you will measure and who will be responsible for this within your organization. There are many elements of a social media strategy that can be measured…and multiple tools that can assist in tracking, monitoring and measuring results. Just be sure you are tracking what is most important. Remember that part about identifying your goals and objectives of social media? Figuring out how you will measure against those state objectives and goals should be your top priority. Establish a regular drumbeat for tracking and measuring data and create weekly/monthly/quarterly reports to analyze your results to plan. Adjust your tactics where necessary if you aren’t meeting your stated goals.
Don’t Build a Social Media Strategy Silo… Integrate Social into Your Marketing Plan
An effective social media strategy needs to be integrated with your overall marketing strategy. A comprehensive strategy incorporates elements of traditional marketing, SEO, content marketing, your website, blogging, email marketing campaigns, etc. and is integrated fully into your overall marketing plans. Your online and offline strategies should reflect your overall brand strategy and complement one another for maximum effectiveness.
Track to a Timeline… Your Audience is Waiting
A comprehensive social media strategy can’t be created and implemented overnight. It will take time. Define your goals for completing each phase of your social media strategy. Establishing this overall timeframe at the get-go will provide direction and focus to your efforts. Break out your strategy into phases if you are getting the itch for presence, just be sure your efforts are in line with your overall objectives.
Implement Your Ideas… Putting your Plan in Motion
Outline how will you execute on your strategy and who is responsible for each element. This is where you really work out the details of your plan – what platforms to utilize, when to engage, how to engage, what to post, defining your tone and personality, etc. Create a content marketing editorial publishing calendar in alignment with your goals. Be sure to include a social media policy within your plan to manage how you communicate, interact and handle diverse situations.
A social media strategy does not have to be a 100+ page document that takes 3 months to compile (though for some companies… it could be!). Be smart about your approach, be realistic about your expectations, and set the stage for more robust and effective social interactions with your audience. Remember, presence does not equal strategy.
I’d love to hear what elements you think are critical in a social media strategy. Please share your thoughts below.
Darcy Schuller is the President and Founder of Suvonni, an innovative digital marketing and brand strategy consulting firm in Chicago. Darcy is passionate about helping clients build stronger brands through elevated customer engagement, social media marketing, content marketing and integrated marketing communications. You can find Darcy on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn.